Hyderabad: First Impressions II

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My first walk around Hyderabad is entirely overwhelming.  The sights, the sounds, the smells, the dust, the cars, the rickshaws, the people, the cows…The first time I went to India I described it as sensory overload, and three years later it’s no different.  Crossing the road seems quite an unbearable task for my first morning.  I live near a major road, whose width is about the size of the three-lane Long Island Expressway I grew up next to.  Yet here in Hyderabad, it ranges anywhere between six and eight lanes, depending on how many motorbikes and auto-rickshaws weave their way between the cars.  Then there are the cows, dogs, and other animals moseying on by.  Crossing the road will be an adventure for another time.  So for now I walk along the main road.  There’s almost a sidewalk, but not quite.  Dust everywhere.  Power cords messily roiled up like giant spider webs overhead, and I must be careful not to step on power cords that have fallen to the ground.

Construction is happening EVERYWHERE, which I suppose is to be expected from one of the fastest-growing cities in India.  What strikes me isn’t necessarily the construction per-se, but rather the rudimentary means by which it’s all happening.  Dusty women and men transport bowls of small concrete stones atop their heads—the women’s bright saris standing out in the monochrome concrete construction site.  There are no big machines or large tools.  Instead, everything happens by hand—sifting the dirt, transporting the dirt, etc.

I am also struck by the large number of public service announcement signs all over the city: “Don’t commit suicide.  Life is too precious.”… “Don’t speak on your mobile while you are mobile!!” … “My dad is the best; he wears a helmet!!” … and my personal favorite: “RASH DRIVING DRIVES YOU TO HELL!”  John and I have an ongoing contest for crazy things seen on a moving motorbike…So far, I’m winning with a man toting a monstrously large pile of wood, which extends twice the height of the motorbike…with a woman gracefully sitting atop the whole pile, purple sari blowing in the wind!

That evening, John and I celebrate surviving our first day in Hyderabad at Waterfront, a restaurant recommended by Anant and quite possibly one of the nicest in the city.  It is located on the aptly-named “Eat Street” and overlooks the huge lake in the middle of Hyderabad.  The restaurant features Chinese, Indian, and Thai dishes…and while I secretly crave Thai food, I decide my first dinner in Hyderabad really should be Indian.  The weather is gorgeous and we are tempted to sit outside by the lake…except we both forgot to start taking malaria drugs before arrival, and there are mosquitoes a-plenty outside.  The view overlooking the lake is amazing – the streets are lit up and there are fireworks, perhaps remnants from Diwali last week.  It’s hard to describe how I feel when looking out towards the lights – the city seems exotic and new, yet strangely familiar at the same time.  It strikes me that this is now home.

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